I’m late to the party. N and I dined at Temporada in March this year and I’ve been dying to write about them since. It was our anniversary, and to be fair, I hadn’t seen the poor guy in over three months – I’d just been eliminated from show-which-must-not-be-named so it seemed only fair to leave the camera behind and enjoy the moment and all that.
I’ve been back numerous times since then. I’ve taken a ridiculous number of photos too. I kept meaning to write up a blog post, but I don’t know, I got sidetracked. So, you’re now going to get a whole snapshot of pictures that showcases head chef Chris Darragh’s seasonality, repertoire and penchant for changing up the menu. Which is a good thing, but if you’re heading back because you’re craving beef brisket sliders or salted caramel doughnuts – you might not find them on the menu. What you might find though, is something even more exciting.
Now, I hate to boast but I think I’m a bit of a hat fortune teller. A headgear prophesier. A milliner predictor, if you will. You get the idea. Last year, I wrote that I suspected that Sage would likely lose their hat. Two days later, the Good Food Guide announcements were made and they did. I still haven’t been or blogged about eighty six but I predicted that they’d get a hat this year. And they have. Right after that dinner at Temporada in March this year, I said to N – they’re going to get a hat. And they did. I’d be willing to stake my fedora that it’s the quickest hat procurement Canberra’s ever seen too.
Have I been to every single one of the nine hatted restaurants on the list? Nope. But I’ve never spent more than $45 on food at Temporada – that’s including dessert, but not wine – and that is outstanding value for a hatted restaurant. (Refer rant about Italian and Sons here. Between that, awful service and the rumours about how they treat their staff, I’m tappin’ out of ever eating there again.)
You know how this whole sharing plate thing is getting really trendy these days? The waiter comes over and says, ‘Our menu is designed to be shared,’ and you share a knowing glance with your dinner companions because everyone instinctively knows what that means. It’s the ol’ just an excuse to charge more deal. Smaller portions, higher prices and ordering more dishes than people. And the potential for not even being full when you leave.
And so I approach Temporada’s menu with a healthy dose of skepticism. I may be tiny but I eat a lot. And I hate leaving feeling hungry. One starter, one main and two sides later, we’re so full that I can’t even fit in dessert. Yeah, that almost never happens.
A few weeks later, we come back with a group of seven friends. At after work drinks, a colleague, Tessa, was just telling the group about how she’d been given a prolonged lecture about not advising the last restaurant of her dietary requirements when the booking was made (she’s vegan) and how she just can’t be bothered eating out because it’s just too difficult. Long story short, I (not knowing that Tessa’s vegan) drag her along to dinner, then realise there’s nothing vegan on the menu. Did I mention that I changed the booking from six people to seven with fifteen minutes notice, on a Friday, and the staff member on the phone doesn’t even tsk-tsk me over the phone?
We start with marinated olives ($8), spiced almonds ($8) and the house made sourdough with cultured butter ($2.50 a person). I’m really hoping this isn’t all that poor Tessa gets to eat tonight – bread, olives and almonds. Feeling sheepish (and getting hungrier), she prepares for a lecture as she pops the ‘do you have anything vegan’ question, while I hide behind my menu. ‘I’ll just ask the chef what we can do,’ is the response. Five minutes later, we get ‘Yup, the chef is sorting is out.’ I’m surprised that she isn’t told what she’s getting and suspicious that she’s going to get charged a fortune, but maybe now’s not the time to annoy the waiter.
This is what Tessa got –
Black barley with broad beans, roast beetroot with pepitas, crispy flatbread. She also gets a serve of roasted heirloom carrots. At this point, she has more food than the rest of us, and I’m starting to think they’re going to make her pay a premium for being vegan.
We also get harissa roasted heirloom carrots on labneh. Tessa gets the same, but without the labneh. Super sweet, slightly spicy carrots pair well with the creaminess of the labneh and fresh herbs – I’m surprised that even the boys are excited about vegetables.
Broccoli, salsa verde, parmesan ($12) – delicious! I’m surprised that the boring old broccoli has been updated, but it’s interesting without being over the top.
Roast flounder with broccolini, capers, almonds in a beurre noisette ($36). Perfectly cooked white fish with salty, nutty brown butter and capers, complimented by the sweetness and crunch of broccolini and toasted almonds. There’s no way to describe this food other than saying it is simplicity at it’s best. Produce-driven cooking that hasn’t had too much done to it. Yeah, if Chris would let me in his kitchen, I’d take up the apprenticeship in an instant. This is the kind of food that I dream of cooking at home. (Lucky for
me us someone has requested the recipe and Chris has kindly provided it to Gourmet Traveller via Fare Exchange – see here.)
One of my friends asks me what does ‘produce driven food’ is. It sounds wanky, but really it’s simply food that tastes like what it is. No unnecessary embellishments, pretensions or bells and whistles. It is what it is and it is damn good.
Beef short rib, roasted beetroot, celeriac remoulade and horseradish ($34). See that perfectly pink beef short rib. Yeah, that’s been in the sous vide machine for days. And yes, it tastes even better than it looks.
Jerusalem artichoke and mushroom gratin with shaved local truffle – $18. One of the standouts of the night, we couldn’t get enough. If we weren’t so full we might even have contemplated ordering another.
Baked apple and sweet potato terrine, rum and raisin ice cream, almond crumb ($16). Ok, not gonna lie, this was not my favourite. It was vegetable-y and not really decadent enough for me as a dessert, but it’s the only disappointing dish of the night, and the other desserts are on the table. Moving on.
Salted caramel parfait, peanuts, chocolate ganache, orange ($16). It’s good, salted caramel anything is a win in most people’s books. Adding chocolate is just a bonus. It’s not the best dessert I’ve had there – I’ve been tainted by the liquorice custard (an Aubergine staple of mine) and the horrendously sinful salted caramel doughnuts. If you’re ever there and either of them are on the menu – get those.
And the best dessert of the night, vanilla custard, mandarin sorbet, meringue and citrus salad. It’s everything a summer dessert should be – sweet, tangy, crunchy – and that darkened bit in the middle – that’s brulee.
The total spend is less than $40 a head, not including wine. Which is ridiculously good for a one hatted restaurant and especially good for food of this calibre. Tessa’s four dishes – $32 in total – and she was so chuffed at all the choice she got, which is always nice when you feel restricted because of your dietary requirements. Chris is a serial menu changer, I think he gets bored, so the menu is always changing. Good and bad, I think – sometimes it’s missing something you’re craving, but on the up side, there’s always something new and exciting to try.
By far the best value hatted restaurant in Canberra. Go with friends because it’s really a menu designed for sharing. Leave room for dessert. If I got to choose where I got to go for dinner, I’d pick Temporada almost every time.
15 Moore Street, Canberra City
View parking map
02 6249 6683
Open Monday to Saturday, 12pm til late.